I headed into my Lost Coast Trail backpacking trip during the first week of December 2015 confident that I would accomplish my goal to hike from Mattole Trailhead to Shelter Cove and return. To backpack or bikepack the southern half of the Lost Coast, you can either park near Shelter Cove, Usal Beach, or, if you want to skip the middle section (Shelter Cove to Needle Rock), Needle Rock Visitor Center. . After the beach, the trail continues through an attractive alder grove and open fields before reaching the intersection with the Wheeler Trail. The last two and a half miles of the hike follow an old section of Briceland Thorn Road. The hiking is quite slow for being on a trail. Being as exhausted as we are, we make the best of the situation and start making dinner and setting up the tent. In fact the entire area is so secluded that even on a Labor Day weekend, I didn’t see a single person in the area all day. After passing through San Francisco, make a quick stop in Garberville to fill up the tank. The Lost Coast Trail is an approximate 52 mile trail that travels along the shoreline of the Lost Coast. There are two campsites: one under the trees next to a brook in the bottom of a steep-sided canyon, and another in a grassy field next to the toilet. The Lost Coast Trail is a great choice. The Southern Section: This portion of the Lost Coast goes deep into the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park from Black Sands Beach down to Usal Beach (roughly 32 miles). Route: Usal Road + The Lost Coast Trail (loop) The nicest time of year to hike the Lost Coast Trail is usually from late May to early October. /tent? We hadn’t considered the elevation gain when planning our hike. The shuttle from one end of the trail to the other is quite long, being at least 2 hours 40 min, and the roads are a bit rough (being either windy, bumpy, steep, etc). Quick Info To show all trails and roads, click the rightmost (layers) button at the top of the mapA GPS-enabled version of this map for mobile devices is available. The Lost Coast Trail travels along a stunning section of coastline within the King Range National Conservation Area. The worst part of the drive is the initial steep, narrow, sandy climb to the top of a bluff. Although it’s in a wilderness, the trail is fairly popular and is generally in good condition, without any really steep or technically difficult sections. The Lost Coast Trail climbs up and over the point. Southern Lost Coast: The less frequented southern section from Usal Beach to the Hidden Valley Trailhead, is an undulating trail that passes through forested canyons and up, over and along scenic ridges. The Lost Coast Trail makes a nice, easy descent through mixed woodland. Fortunately it’s much shorter, and it also has the best views of the entire hike, of the glittering ocean and the impressively tall, steep, redwood-covered bluffs both to the north and south. The road climbs though attractive countryside. From Garberville, it should take approximately 45 minutes to travel along the 22 miles of twists and turns that eventually drop you off at the parking area of Black Sands Beach. My friend and I were camping at the Nadelos Campground (6 miles) and started from there. The northern section of the trail is a 24.4 mile stretch through the King Range National Conservation Area from Mattole Beach to Black Sands Beach. It’s 11:30 AM, we awkwardly get on our bikes, having never biked with a backpacking pack before, and head off down the Chemise Mountain Road, Philip on his mountain bike and I on my hybrid. Ensure you have enough fuel and water. It’s really remarkable to think you have, or will, climb to the top of the imposing bluffs. The campground doesn’t take reservations and doesn’t even have defined campsites, but there always seem to be spots available. Despite its remoteness, the large campground is very popular and can be a bit of a zoo on summer weekends, with cars constantly driving by on the dusty roads and radios blaring. About | Contact | Contribute | Disclosure & Privacy Policy. .longer than we were interested in. For that matter, it’s one of the most attractive campgrounds in any redwood park. Reservation Request: submit a reservation request through the BLM’s online system: No permit is required, but there is a camping fee of $5/night (/person? A web browser that supports HTML5 is required to view the map. 30 min later, fireworks are launch 50 feet from our tent. This is Chase Grove. This route works out to being 25.28mi, much more manageable, assuming the road is in good shape. The sheer cliffs of the next stretch of coast are inaccessible by foot, so the trail begins inland several miles east from Shelter Cove, and doesn't return to the coast until near Needle Rock. This grove is actually an isolated part of Sinkyone Wilderness. The road is pleasant but unexceptional; compared to the singletrack, it’s a little dull. We really should have driven up to Shelter Cove Friday night to get an early start Saturday morning. The 25-mile Lost Coast Trail runs along coastal mountains between Shelter Cove and the mouth of the Mattole River. Least popular due to its lack of scenic views of the ocean and amount of elevation gain. Any remains of the enclosure have likely been used for firewood, and all that remains now is a plastic vent pipe lying nearby in the grass. Throughout the hike, no development at all is visible; this is one of the few spots on the California Coast that doesn’t have any roads or buildings. Within 10 min, the first round of fireworks begin to go off over on the beach. Located in a lush glen surrounded by precipitously steep, high, redwood-covered hills, the campground is set in an old-growth redwood grove (maybe part of the Sally Bell Grove), with 10 or 12 medium-sized redwoods visible from the trail. The first two campsites are just before and slightly above the beach, and a third is right next to the beach; all are exposed to the sun and wind. Around 18mi in we realize we haven’t been drinking enough water and start getting Charlie horses in our legs. Today no sign of this activity remains and the area feels remarkably wild and remote. 25mi later, we are on the final stretch, smelling the campfires and hearing the sounds of vehicles on the beach. Instead, we opt for a more direct route, starting at a parking lot near the junction of Shelter Cove Rd and Chemise Mountain Road, biking down Chemise Mountain Road to Usal Road (four-wheel drive road), and continuing riding until Usal Beach. The Lost Coast Trail ends with a pleasant, level path cut through tall, dense blackberry brambles. There aren’t actually a lot of places where you can camp under old-growth redwoods, and none of them can really compare to this campground. The shortest route is a 64.5mi bike ride on Briceland Thorn Rd to route 101 to highway 1 and then on Usal Rd, connecting from Shelter Cove to Usal Beach. After Little Jackass Creek Camp, the trail climbs steeply out of the canyon. Accessing the Southern Section of the Lost Coast Trail. It runs through miles of lush, attractive coastal woodland high up on top of the rugged coastal cliffs. The Lost Coast Trail can be divided into three sections, which can be linked together or hiked separately. 2019 wildfire In July 2019 a small wildfire burned along Usal Road between the Usal Beach Campground and Highway 1, cutting off access to the campground and the southern trailhead. In fact this second hill feels like a smaller version of the first. With how much distance we still have to cover, I start to think we might not finish hiking until 4 AM. I also knew I had some bad timing for when the low tides occurred during the first part of the week. We haven’t used this map, but, after reading reviews, it sounds like you are better off using maps provided by the BLM and state. Click to see a similar view on a foggy day. Just before sunset, we go to bed. Go straight at the “four corners” intersection, where the road becomes dirt. Unfortunately this part of the trail follows the route of an old logging road and has become heavily overgrown with 8 foot tall purple pampas grass, an invasive plant that commonly grows on the sides of logging roads in redwood forests. Lost Coast Trail-South (Hidden Valley - Needle Rock in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park) 9 miles, 875 ft. climb 2,600 ft. descent Mountain meadows, old-growth forests and ridgetop vistas through coastal chaparral offer hikers an interesting contrast to the northern leg of the Lost Coast Trail. Research Camping Permits, King Range Camping Permit Little Jackass Creek (not to be confused with Jackass Creek, which is further down the trail at Wheeler Beach) has the most attractive campground of the hike. About a half-mile in is a brief break in the woods with a nice viewpoint. When they hiked the Lost Coast Trail had recently opened a brand new southern terminus at Usal Beach & they tagged it! Around 16.5mi down the trail, we hit an old road, Bear Harbor Road, with two tire tracks and grass in between. What follows is a mix of photos from their trip mostly in chronological order (from a guy that wasn't there).mostly in chronological order (from a guy that wasn't there). There aren’t many things that gets my adrenaline going more than a set of glowing eyes in the woods at night. The overgrowth finally clears up as the trail begins to descend through a pleasant redwood forest; this section, like most of the redwood-covered parts of the trail, is exceptionally smooth, clear, and easy. If you’re just hiking the southern section of the Lost Coast and skipping Shelter Cove to Needle Rock, you will want to park here. The next beach is at the North Fork of Jackass Creek, which forms a pool just before entering the ocean. The unspoiled and remarkably varied scenery includes remote black-sand beaches and patches of old-growth redwoods. Here’s the northern trailhead location in Google Maps. Fortunately, all of this is left behind within the first mile of the hike. . The toilet is completely exposed in the middle of a field. King Range National Conservation Area does require a backpacking permit for $10/permit reservation, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, does not require a backpacking permit, but has a $5/night self registration fee, Don’t underestimate the elevation gain along the coast, Bear canisters are required for backpacking in the King Range National Conservation Area and strongly suggested in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, Shuttling cars is not direct and will take at least 2 hours 40 mins, Required for overnight use in the King Range Wilderness, Max group size = 15 people, so 15 people would need to reserve 3 permits, Not required for day-use or in designated campgrounds, Must be submitted > 29 days before your trip, Minimum fee: $110 + additional fees in excess of minimum fee, Contact King Range Project Office to request a Special Recreation Permit application, Not available for Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day weekends, Special Recreation Permit: $110 (minimum fee) + additional fees in excess of minimum fee. The northern section of the Lost Coast Trail (between Shelter Cove and the Mattole River) is in better condition and is therefore more popular. Middle: Shelter Cove to Needle Rock, 9.21 mi. Just past the Mendocino county line, the road passes a larger old-growth grove to your right. Unusually, there are also maples; the lighter foliage of the maples contrasts with the darker, more formal-looking redwoods and gives the grove a distinctively friendly, leafy appearance. The Duration of this trip varies from person to person depending on skill level, scheduling, group size, and the time one is looking to enjoy the trail. You can also start from the Wailaki Campground (6 miles) or the Hidden Valley Trailhead (8 miles). The trail begins at the Usal Beach campground, named for the USA Lumber Company, which built a sawmill here in 1889. 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